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The Warsaw Pact

In the late 1950s, Romania curbed excessive Soviet influence over its armed forces, built up in the years after World War II, and ceased sending its officers to the Soviet Union for military education and training. After 1962 it did not allow Warsaw Pact troop maneuvers on its territory, although occasional command and staff exercises were permitted. In November 1964, PCR General Secretary Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej announced a unilateral reduction in the term of compulsory military service from two years to sixteen months and in the size of the Romanian armed forces from 240,000 to 200,000 soldiers. His successor, Ceausescu, openly asserted that these moves reflected the precedence of Romanian national interests over Warsaw Pact requirements. He criticized Soviet domination of the alliance, its command, and policy making, and he called for structural changes in the Warsaw Pact, to include rotating the position of commander-in-chief of the joint armed forces among non-Soviet officers and allowing the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact member states a bigger role in decision making. In the late 1960s, Romanian forces essentially quit participating in joint Warsaw Pact field exercises except for sending staff officers to observe them, and Ceausescu announced that Romania would no longer put its military forces under the Warsaw Pact's joint command, even during peacetime maneuvers.

In the midst of the 1968 "Prague Spring" crisis over internal political liberalization in Czechoslovakia, Ceausescu traveled to Prague to demonstrate his support for party First Secretary Alexander Dubcek and Czechoslovakian autonomy. Romania declined to join the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia or to allow Bulgarian forces to cross its territory to intervene in Czechoslovakia. At a massive demonstration in Bucharest on the day after the invasion, Ceausescu denounced the intervention as a violation of Czechoslovakia's national sovereignty, international law, and the terms of the Warsaw Pact itself. He declared that, unlike Czechoslovakia, Romania would resist a similar invasion of its territory, and he placed Romanian forces on alert status. He established the paramilitary Patriotic Guards with an initial strength of 100,000 citizens to provide a mechanism for the participation of the country's population in a system of total national defense. Later in August, major troop movements along Romania's borders with the Soviet Union, Hungary, and Bulgaria indicated a similar threat of intervention in Romania. These threatening movements may have been intended to intimidate Ceausescu, who was conferring with Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito at the time.

Determined to prevent alliance maneuvers from serving as a vehicle for intervention in Romania, Ceausescu refused to allow Warsaw Pact exercises on Romanian territory in the wake of the 1968 action against Czechoslovakia. After its deviation from the common alliance line on Czechoslovakia, Romania became the object of several joint Warsaw Pact maneuvers conducted near its borders that were designed to pressure it politically. These exercises coincided with other major displays of Romanian independence from the Warsaw Pact.

Shortly before Ceausescu visited China in June 1971, the Soviet Union mounted a major exercise on its southern border with Romania. During "South-71," as the exercise was called, the Soviet Union mobilized twelve ground forces divisions, and the Soviet Black Sea Fleet operated off the Romanian coast. It requested, but Romania denied, permission to transport three divisions across Romania to Bulgaria for the maneuvers. South-71 was an indication of Soviet displeasure with Ceausescu for making the first visit to China by a Warsaw Pact head of state since the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s and for maintaining good relations with its communist rival. South-71 forced Romania into a partial mobilization but did not disrupt Ceausescu's trip to China. Soviet, Czechoslovak, and Hungarian units conducted the "Opal-71" exercises along Hungary's border with Romania in August 1971. Ceausescu's failure to travel to the Crimea for a summer meeting with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, customary for East European leaders, may have been related to the military activity along Romania's borders.

Throughout the remainder of the 1970s and during the 1980s, Romania continued and further developed its autonomous position in the Warsaw Pact. It refused to allow Soviet forces to traverse Romanian territory to Bulgaria for joint Warsaw Pact maneuvers. In 1974 Romania denied a Soviet request to construct a broad-gauge railroad from Odessa across eastern Romania to Varna, Bulgaria, that could be used to transport major troop units. Romania's stance against the use of its territory by allied forces effectively isolated Bulgaria from the other Warsaw Pact countries except by air or sea transport.

Romania continued to participate fully in formal alliance political meetings in which it could publicly express its views, assert its interests, and influence the formulation of official Warsaw Pact statements and documents. It openly adopted positions different from those of the Soviet Union. Romanian demands for genuine consultation and greater Eastern European input into decision making resulted in the establishment of the Council of Foreign Ministers in 1976 and other formal deliberative bodies within the Warsaw Pact. Romania used these consultative mechanisms to publicize its disagreements with the Soviet Union over alliance policy. In 1978 it publicly opposed Soviet initiatives to achieve tighter military integration in the Warsaw Pact and to increase the military expenditures of the Warsaw Pact member states. In 1980 Romania refused to support the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan when it abstained instead of voting against the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the Soviet action. It later openly called on the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan. In 1984 Romania publicly opposed the Soviet decision to deploy short-range ballistic missiles in East Germany and Czechoslovakia to counter the 1983 NATO deployment of intermediate nuclear forces (INF) in Western Europe.

Romania remained a Warsaw Pact member state in 1989, but retained its well-established reputation as a maverick within the Soviet alliance. It maximized its autonomy within the boundaries of the Warsaw Pact, minimized its participation, and avoided an outright withdrawal from the alliance, which the Soviet Union would not have tolerated. The Soviet Union countenanced these displays of independence because, as part of the Warsaw Pact's southern tier, Romania had a less strategic location than East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, or Hungary; it did not border on a NATO country; and it retained its rigid internal communist regime.

Data as of July 1989

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